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Atomic Alert (Elementary version)

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Atomic Alert (Elementary version)

Published 1951

Frightening civil defense procedure film aimed at Cold War-era elementary school students.

Run time 10:13
Producer Encyclopaedia Britannica Films
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W


Explains steps to take in case of an atomic bomb alert or a bombing without warning at school, in the open or at home. Gives simple explanation of nuclear fusion.

Classic atomic eyeball shot
CU Hands operating a Geiger Counter
CU Students faces
CU Hands on a Geiger Counter
Atomic Scientists doing experiments
Animation of atomic bomb detonating in city
Animation of faceless boy in from of faceless family. In the background a cutout community.
Top down view of globe showing United States outlined and glowing
Teens walking down the street as a siren goes off
Teens scatter in all directions
CU One boy left in street
VO: "Don't hesitate! Take cover!"
Exterior nice suburban home
Boy and girl go down to basement
Boy and girl sitting in dark shelter
CU Boy's hand on first-aid kit *
CU Inside of first-aid kit *
Scene of people scrambling out of apartment building
Kids head down hall past "shelter area" sign
Two boys in empty stadium, sirens. Boys run *
CU Teens in rows in fallout "duck" position
WS Two boys walking down street
CU Boys talking
Bomb blast
One boy gets up and runs through rubble [possible post riot scene]
Two boys run through rubble of city
Nice running shot through rubble
VO: "Don't drink tap water! It may be contaminated!"
CU Radio
MCU Ted pouring water from jug in the dark. Teens walking down street again.
VO: "....our very lives may depend on always being alert!"



Reviewer: uniQ - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 18, 2011
Subject: "but what if there is a bombing; a bombing that comes without warning?"
Neat little film from Encyclopedia Britannica about air raid precautions for elementary school students.

As others have mentioned one of the highlights of the film is Sue, Ted's litter sister who has a hilarious accent and some sarcastic remarks to make about the entire thing.

While it's possible to poke holes in the advice given parts of this, overall it's holds together as a film (Unlike some preparedness films, IE. "Earthwatch").

I would love to know what kind of accent the narrator has, he seems to drop the letter R, rendering "protect" as "p'tect".

Additionally, the intro is highly effective. The music is sharp and dangerous while the eyeball image is quite creative. Pay close attention to the apartment house scene. The man in the upper right appears to gesture disgustedly at the siren!
Reviewer: CutterJeff - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 15, 2010
Subject: Hiding under desks
Quick link for those commenting about "Didn't the US know hiding under desks was useless?"

Go to the second page of the story, where she goes back into her school - the building survived, but there's glass all over the desks. The majority of the injuries for folks in the building were cuts from flying glass. The space under the desks has no glass.
Reviewer: pheret - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 12, 2009
Subject: be alert!
except for the alarming calmness of the children (where are the parents?) and the absolute lack of damage OR radiation (come on, every now and then at LEAST a cosmic ray clicks the detector), good flick!
Reviewer: pkkms - favoritefavorite - February 8, 2009
Subject: When The Going Gets Tough...
After the two home-alone kids weather a nuke attack, two suits show up to give the all-clear. One of them mentions they encountered the kids' mom shopping and she was all right. Mom always goes shopping when times get tough.... tornadoes, nuclear bomb detonations, recession...
Reviewer: HillbillyProfane - favoritefavoritefavorite - October 12, 2008
Subject: Ted and Sue have a battery-powered radio...
...but don't seem to have parents! :)

Seriously though, the bit where the sirens go off and the kids scatter in all directions looking for shelter was actually pretty scary. Well done film, and not particularly cheesy.
Reviewer: ralphw - favoritefavorite - August 19, 2008
Subject: Kids: bombs are bad, but a little radiation is OK.
The mp4 encoded file plays back a little jerky with Quicktime on Windows.

at 0:44 (mp4 version), see the kid holding the radioactive item in his hand, moving it closer to the geiger-muller tube. Radiation is harmless in small amounts, though...
Reviewer: OhFUwC - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 25, 2008
Subject: I love these
I sampled this one for a song called The Breakdown ( duck & cover ). Its on iTunes under the name antagone.
Reviewer: FortMudge - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 5, 2007
Subject: Duck and Cover isn't as stupid as folks like to think
Yes, if you're too close to ground zero, nothing will save you. But the CEP of those weapons was pretty bad. And even now, protection isn't all-or-nothing. If you have time to react, resourceful reaction is better than just standing there like a dummy.

But it sounds so worldly and sophisticated to claim that of course everyone at any distance from any nuke is going to have the flesh flensed from their bones.

I lived 50 miles from major targets, and you bet your ass I paid attention to this stuff *and* wasn't paralyzed at the prospect. But maybe I was raised by mutants. Or Baden-Powell, I don't know.

If it ever happens that you do the wrong thing during the moment/moments you have to do something better, I probably won't be telling you I told you so.

If it turns out afterwards that I envy the dead (that's you, you smarmy know-it-alls out there), maybe I'll kill myself. Maybe not, though.

Maybe I'll be digging through rubble for you.
Reviewer: Logoliker2004 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 14, 2005
Subject: Whoa...
This is some civil defense film! Although it isn't really an official one, it is part of the "Encyclopedia Britannica" educational film series. It may have been cheaper to get for schools rather than the official civil defense-licensed ones like "Duck and Cover." But, it is VERY realistic, and it is perfect to show to elementary and junior high kids in the 1950s. The atomic explosion simulations are also good, too. There is the loud "BOOM" of the blast, falling debris, and of course, the flash at the beginning of the explosion. The "Ted and Sue" scenes in the film are also humorous, especially Sue's sarcastic moments. I think this film is pretty good for school audiences!
Reviewer: vera13 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - November 5, 2004
Subject: The fifties were a horror
I remember these films in school. Mrs Kelly's second grade class was the first time we were required to learn to "duck and cover". That was the year that Eisenhower was first elected president. Current events have very nearly the same feel.
Reviewer: glenn - favoritefavoritefavorite - May 12, 2004
Subject: bad bad advice
If theres an A-bomb blast in your neighborhood, take off your outer clothing and go in a stranger's house
Reviewer: Marysz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - April 24, 2004
Subject: A-Bomb America
A film that shows ineffectual ways for children to protect themselves in case an A-bomb falls in their home town. We mostly see Ted and his little sister Sue, who are home alone when the bomb falls. Sue calmly closes the Venetian blinds (as if that will do any good) before they go crouch in the basement. As in ÂDuck and Cover we see lots of scenes of schoolchildren interrupting their play to huddle against buildings. ÂStrangers will understand, the narrator says, as a boy with nowhere to go enters a strange house. Nowadays, of course, children talking to strangers is considered more dangerous than atomic warfare. I remember doing Âduck and cover in elementary school during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At the time, people did point out how ridiculous these drills were and how useless they would be in a real atomic war. After the Kennedy assassination, the countryÂs focus changed and the duck and cover drills became a thing of the past. The civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam moved to center stage. The fear of atomic war receded as America was forced to face its internal problems instead of endlessly focusing on the Communist threat.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 21, 2003
Subject: Atomic Alert
This is Encyclopedia Brittanica Films' answer to Duck and Cover. As you would expect, its somewhat more staid than the other film, but it has its moments. The opening graphic is quite cool and disturbing, with an atomic symbol superimposed on the iris of a human eye. The rest of the film, though, is a lot more prosaic, though it does have an incredibly sarcastic-sounding little sister character, and a scene where a boy doesn't know where to go when the siren goes off, and rather than go to one of his friend's houses as he is encouraged to do, he takes refuge in the home of a total stranger (with the blessing of the narratorÂÂthis just begs to be msted). As usual, the atomic threat is laughably minimized.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ****. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.
Reviewer: Kold War Kid - favoritefavoritefavorite - June 5, 2003
Subject: Another great Easter Bunny film
I love the "Leave it to Beaver" type music. I can see where this film would have been scary to elementary school kids: no parents, the two kids waiting for the "All Clear"; How long? A day, a week? And the faux announcer on the radio: "Avoid radioactive mist" (I always do!) then the knocking at the door. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the kids who saw this had nightmares.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 5, 2003
Subject: The People In Northern Quebec Are Doomed!
In this rather troubling and detailed short, kids are taught what to do when the A=Bomb hits. The narrator informs us that there is a 'warning signal' and shows a map of where the warning signal covers. All of North America is covered, except, oddly enough, for the lovely people in Northeastern Quebec! Two kids are shown calmly drawing the drapes, closing the blinds and going downstairs, where in real life of course, we'd be screaming our lungs out. Reccomended!
Reviewer: BWCarver - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 10, 2002
Subject: Liars
What strikes me about this video and the others like it (e.g., Duck and Cover) is that they are all made AFTER the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The U.S. government KNEW what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and they had the gall to tell people to cover themselves with a coat!?

It's baffling. If the U.S. had ever been hit by an atomic bomb, people would have learned what a pack of lies they had been told about its likely effects. So, these films express a contradiction. On the one hand the film purports to have the desire of educating people as to the likely effects of an atomic blast, but on the other hand, the film-makers must know that everything they are suggesting is absolutely false and worthless advice.

Recognizing this leads us to look for another motivation for these films. Appeasement? Controlling the fear of a populus with leaders who figure they cannot bear the truth? Something else?
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